In case your mental picture of T is that of an inhuman, evil ogre, here is a glimpse into his humane side.
T’s hairy tales
T had a great sense of humour.
As I have said earlier, he was almost completely bald (more about the “almost” later).
When T was general manager, Pakistan he invited the board of directors to Karachi for a board meeting.
He looked after the directors very well indeed. On the last evening of their stay in Karachi he arranged a grand dinner.
After the dinner one of the directors thanked T and said “I will pray to Allah to give you hair.”
T roused his entire staff that night and got hold of a wig.
Next morning he put on the wig and went to meet the Director.
“Thank you so much, Sir”, he said. “Allah has heard your prayer. See, I have hair !!!”
I walked into T’s office one morning. He looked up at me, paused and asked “Did you have a haircut?”
Yes, I did, I replied.
“Looks nice”, said T, “you have got rid of that fuzz around your ears”.
A compliment from T, with a barb on the side, of course! But I was not prepared for his next salvo.
“Who is your hairdresser? Give my secretary his name and number,” T said.
This was a most unexpected request. Why would a (almost) bald man want a hairdresser?
A bit about my hairdresser would be appropriate at this point.
His name was Steven, but he liked to be called Stephanie. He was a gay Pilipino who ran a hairdressing saloon that mostly catered to the elderly, rich women and a few recommended male clients. All his staff were gay Pilipino men too. (“Who else would like to do this stupid job?” he once explained to me.) He used to address his lady clients as “darling”, “sweetheart” and “my love”. My wife was neither rich nor elderly, but she was a firm believer in Stephanie’s expertise, and I had followed her advice to have my haircuts at his hands.
T's secretary booked an appointment with Stephanie for a haircut for T at 6 pm that evening, mentioning my name as reference.
At 6.43 pm I got a call from Stephanie.
“Whom did you send to me, maaaaaaan?” he screamed.
Gently, I got him to narrate what had happened.
It appeared that T had walked in at 6 pm sharp and announced “I have a haircut appointment with Steven.”
Stephanie (and the other gays) stared at this bald hulk.
“What hair?” Stephanie ventured to ask.
T glared at him, turned around, and pointed to a two-inch fringe of hair at the bottom of his head, just above the neck.
“This,” he said.
Stephanie went through a grueling half hour trimming the fringe, showered by directives and admonitions about what to do, or not to do. Every now and then T would demand to be shown the progress made hitherto, using two mirrors held at strategic angles behind his head, and would criticize this or that. Ultimately Stephanie’s ordeal ended and T departed, leaving a large tip. Evidently, Mocambo khush hua (no explanation possible – you either know what that means, or don’t).
Next morning I asked T how the haircut went.
“Not bad, not bad, my lad, thank you for giving me his name,” T replied.
“He is a bloody fag, you know! Can you believe he called me “my dear”? I had to stop that sort of thing, of course.”
“But he does know his job, though I had to tell him what to do, from time to time. Not everyone can handle my hair, you know.”
“Or what is left of it!” he said ruefully.
The jocular T
T took an overnight flight home from London.
At 8.30 am he was in his office, and I was summoned.
“Come, come, my lad” he said, “sit yourself down. I want to tell you something.”
I was all ears.
“Mary (his wife) came to meet me at the airport. Such a wonderful surprise! I thanked her and said ‘So nice of you to come to the airport, my dear’.”
“Do you know what she said?” he asked.
I had no clue.
“She said ‘I have come here to get away from your brother and his wife’.”
He went on to explain that his brother and sister-in-law had come visiting. Mary hated his sister-in-law because every time Mary was watching some TV channel this woman would grab the remote and change the channel.
T had a hearty laugh. I was surprised at this sharing of intimate details, but I had to laugh, too.
T was in a great mood! He had a grand joke to tell. He told me the joke, and spent the next 20 minutes calling up all his friends to tell them the joke, too. So I had to hear the same joke umpteen times.
This is the joke.
“This morning I found Mary standing in front of the bathroom mirror rubbing toilet paper on her breasts.”
“I asked her what she was doing!”
‘‘’I am told’ she said ‘this increases the size of the breasts. Do you think it will work?’’
“Of course it will work, darling. It has worked so well on your ass!!”
The clean hearted T
T had a driver in Pakistan, named Ahmed, whom he considered to be very loyal and reliable.
He went on a fortnight’s driving holiday in Scotland with his family and took Ahmed with him.
Later T brought Ahmed to Dubai to drive his car. I became friendly with him.
One day I asked him “Ahmed-mian, Scotland aap ko kaisa laga?” (Mr Ahmed, how did you find Scotland?)”
Ahmed said, “Janab, main kya bolun? Yeh gora ne to zabardasti mujhe unka muluk le gaya. Do haftey tak uskey saath rahna pada. Bahut hi mushkil tha. Ek to roz woh gora daru pita tha, aur main dekhta raha. Doosra yeh – pata nahi kya kya haram mujhe khila diya.”
(Sir, what can I say? This white guy forced me to go to his country and I had to stay with him for two whole weeks. It was so difficult! For one, every day he would drink and I had to watch. Then, I don’t know what unclean things he made me eat!)
I sympathised with Ahmed.
Then he said “Yeh gora bahar se to bahut-hi harami hai, lekin andar se banda saaf hai”. (This white guy looks like a bastard from the outside, but inside the fellow is clean).
I had to agree.
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world (until Covid, that is), playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)